President Obama held an important meeting yesterday with the top executives of the nation's largest banks. The president convened that meeting to urge these top bankers to increase lending which is an important part of our economic recovery. After being bailed out by American tax dollars last fall, the bankers, who still have their jobs because of the government's actions, should have made every effort to get to Washington. But the top executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup apparently got caught in the fog.
Like the executives from the aforementioned three banks, I was scheduled to fly from LaGuardia Airport to Washington, DC yesterday. Once I arrived at the airport, I learned that flights to National airport were grounded due to dense fog that blanketed the northeastern seaboard. Instead of giving up my travel plans, I drove to Penn Station, booked a ticket on Amtrak and arrived in Washington a few hours later than I initially planned. With a little effort and quick thinking, I made it to Washington with ease (despite the fog).
That got me thinking. After I read Andrew Ross Sorkin's DealBook column in today's New York Times on the president's meeting, I thought that if those executives really wanted to make it to Washington as they claimed, they could have taken the train just as I did.
It is inexcusable for these bankers to have missed the meeting. I am pretty sure President Obama would have postponed the meeting a few hours to accommodate the executives in appreciation of their last minute effort to rearrange their travel plans. Then again, common sense should have told these gentlemen that when the President of the United States summons you to the White House, you check the weather ahead of time and plan accordingly.
The behavior of these CEOs is just another example of the financial industry's careless attitude and actions toward the government, which bailed them out - and the American people, who paid for their individual bailouts. But the bankers continue to act as if they bear no responsibility for the economic collapse and have no obligation to change the way they do business. The banks must realize that the American people are angry and they see right through the bank executives' apologies for missing the president's important meeting.
President Obama was right to convene a meeting with the bank executives and remind them that just as the American people came to their rescue, they need to be part of the American people's economic recovery. A lack of available credit provided by banks has prevented small businesses - the engines that help drive our economic recovery - from creating jobs and putting money in the pockets of men and women across the country.
The next time President Obama calls on the bankers to meet him in Washington, I hope they will take the time to check the weather. It would be inexcusable for them to get caught in the fog.